“As part of the continuum of services to support survivors, VAW shelters are integral to ending violence against women.”

Every year, thousands of women are forced to leave their homes fleeing abuse and violence.

In order to find safety and protection for themselves and their children, women often turn to local shelters to provide them with the refuge they need. In addition to providing a safe place to stay, shelters help women rebuild their lives, heal from abuse, develop resiliency, and move towards a life free from abuse.

Across the Durham Region, we are fortunate to have four VAW shelters. Shelters that are often running at over capacity without adequate or sustainable funding.

The needs of an abuse survivor are so multi-faceted and require more than just a safe place to sleep. Among their many responsibilities, shelter workers assist and advocate for women and their children in navigating the legal system, securing affordable housing, immigration services, child protection and mental health services. They also provide counselling, safety planning, child specific programming, parenting classes, outreach services and prevention and awareness programming.

“More Than a Bed: A National Profile of VAW Shelters and Transition Houses” was released on May 1, 2019, and provides information on 290 VAW shelters’ physical buildings; shelter size; length of stay and capacity; the various groups served and the acces­sibility of shelters for different survivors; service delivery and programming; labour, salaries, and types of work conducted; and funding, finances, and reporting. Where relevant, the report presents a cross-section of data at the regional and population size levels to illustrate differences across the country, as well as between larger and smaller communities.”

“The data clearly shows that VAW shelters are providing expanding services to a diverse group of women and children without comparable funding increases. They find creative solutions to keep women safe even when they have no more funded beds available. Capacity challenges are compounded by the lack of safe, affordable, and appropriate housing for women and their children.”

“Funding issues, including underfunding and lack of stability in funding, have significant repercussions on the work of VAW shelters/THs. They are unable to provide competitive salaries, which, coupled with burnout, leads to high turnover among staff. Many have to fundraise to meet their operating costs, with some not meeting their costs even with fundraising.” Women’s Shelters Canada

The Report gives excellent insight into the services shelters provide, the challenges they face to protect women and their children and to offer “more than a bed”. If you don’t work in the sector, you will likely be surprised with the challenges faced by shelters to provide adequate services to survivors and if you do work in the sector, you will be all too familiar with the realities.

Shelters need the support of the communities they serve. Contact your local shelter to see how you can help. Bethesda House: Bowmanville, Herizon House: Ajax, Y’s Wish: Oshawa, The Denise House, Oshawa

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